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Medical Malpractice: NY MD's Malpractice Ins. Premiums- Is $170,000 enough?
Obstetricians and neurosurgeons in New York pay over $170,000 per year, per person, to have medical malpractice insurance. What do they get for their money?
When a doctor buys a malpractice insurance policy, they usually get an insurance policy that protects them for that year for up to $1.3 Million dollars for each event that year, up to a maximum of $3.9 million dollars total for that same year. (The $3.9 million is called an 'aggregate amount'). What does that mean for a patient who has sued a doctor in New York?
It means that if the patient is successful in their lawsuit and either settles with the doctor or obtains a verdict against the doctor, the maximum the patient can obtain from the insurance company would be $1.3 million on behalf of that individual doctor. Typically, many doctors and their professional groups take out additional malpractice insurance to give them a cushion, or an umbrella, in the event they are required to pay more compensation than their original malpractice insurance policy provided.
In other cases, a doctor may be required to obtain 'excess' insurance coverage through the hospital where they have admitting privileges. Again, this attempts to protect the doctor and also the hospital from any large payout.
"How come my doctor on Long Island has to pay so much in insurance premiums?" The answer to that question would take many days to answer. There are many reasons that account for such high premiums for doctors including the insurance company making poor financial decisions and requiring additional monies to keep them going. Other explanations point to the trial lawyers as the 'bad guys' driving up doctor's premiums. Still others say it's frivolous lawsuits that cause high premiums. Regardless of which explanation you accept, the fact is that doctors in New York and Long Island pay some of the highest medical malpractice premiums in the country. The question in the title of this article "Is $170,000 enough?" is a facetious way to inform the reader that the premiums are out of control.
There have been news accounts that some doctors have given up practicing obstetrics or other areas of medicine because of the high premiums. Other accounts claim this is mere exaggeration. Some patients feel bad for their doctor having to pay such high premiums. Others claims that their doctors can afford it and the doctors should stop complaining since they have a greater quality of life than many patients.
Even a staunch advocate of injured victims can understand the frustration of many physicians when they complain about such high payments made to their malpractice insurance companies. Interestingly, there has been no outcry from these same doctors and physician organizations turning to their insurance companies and asking "What are you doing to us?"
Why has there been no outcry from New York politicians looking into the pricing and fees of these same insurance companies? The lack of an answer suggests that the doctors may be afraid to take on their own insurance companies. What about the politicians? Why haven't they taken up the gauntlet to address such high premiums? The lack of an obvious answer raises more questions about allegiances to special interests.
There are some people who suggest that if awards for pain and suffering are capped in New York, that will limit the amount awarded, and the insurance companies will not have to continually raise their premiums that doctors must pay to insure themselves. Although this reasoning might sound on its' face to be reasonable. It isn't. There have been many studies in states that have caps on pain and suffering that limited awards DO NOT reduce malpractice premiums for doctors or hospitals. In fact in two separate (non-partisan) studies, premiums were noted to have increased, even with caps in place.
The next time your doctor complains about the expensive and outrageous medical malpractice premiums he has to pay before he even pays his overhead, ask him why he doesn't complain to his insurance company.
From NY Medical Malpractice posted 2007-11-26.